You never get a second chance to make a good first impression — Unknown
The empowering resume is visually appealing. Lasting impressions can be formed during the first few seconds your resume is read. That’s how long it takes someone to view the layout, observe the quality of the printing and type, and note the color and quality of the paper. Of course most of this takes place on an subconscious level. These days, a resume will often be scanned electronically the first time through, but eventually a human being is going to read it, bringing in all the internal prejudices that entails. If the reader detects misspellings, clumsy or verbose writing, or a confusing layout, the resume will be gone quicker than you can say “oooops!”
Accentuate the Positive
I do not place modesty among the virtues — Sherlock Holmes
The empowering resume presents you at your best, yet does not exaggerate your qualifications. Each item is carefully selected to promote you in the eyes of the reader. The resume exudes value, providing positive information about you. Make positive statements about yourself; throw false humility overboard.
Impact and Drama
You are telling a story. Write with impact. Impact is achieved when you accurately describe and project your desired image. Your full potential will come across only when you write with confidence. The empowering resume provides valuable information quickly and is easy to read. Each sentence expresses a fact, impression, or idea designed to sell you. Don’t fret if it doesn’t come out perfectly the first time. Even the most famous and prolific authors find themselves writing and rewriting the same line or paragraph numerous times. When you are reasonably certain that it is close to what you want, read it as if for the first time. Is it interesting? Exciting? Boring? Make your decision and edit accordingly.
An empowering resume showcases results and accomplishments. It is your statement of value, your “features and benefits,” as it were.
emPowering reSume PrinCiPleS in FaCt & FiCtion
The Non-Laws of Resume Writing
There is no greater subject for debate (other than politics and religion perhaps) than the resume. But while most so-called laws of resume writing are a matter of opinion, there are certain principles you can use to guide your efforts.
As previously noted, overselling yourself can be a serious mistake and is to be avoided. Your strongest presentation does not describe you as being better than you are but as good as you are! An honest presentation will invariably lead to a stronger interview, and will eliminate the fear of being “busted.”
One Page or Two?
Perhaps the single most common question we hear regarding resumes is “Should it be one page or two?” This non-argument is the result of the exasperation suffered by generations of employers. Besieged by endless numbers of poorly written efforts, one day they threw up their hands and declared, “If I’m going to read a lousy resume, I’d rather read a poorly written one-pager than a poorly written two-pager.” Or something like that.
The empowering resume is interesting, well-written, attractively laid out, and contains useful information; and it will be read.
In principle, a resume should be as long as necessary to tell your story. We have seen resumes where the writers attempted to squeeze 25 years of experience onto a single unhappy page. These people had several key positions but were only able to devote a few uninformative lines to each. And, as more and more information was shoehorned in, certain physical reactions naturally occurred, resulting in the incredible shrinking fonts and narrowing margins. By the time they were posted, they were so illegible nobody without a strong magnifying glass could read them.
And if someone actually read them, so much valuable information had been jettisoned that any impact it had, was already neutered.
The Secret to Creating a Multipage Resume Is in the Layout.
Most of your key information should appear on page one. That means a quick scan of your first page will reveal your objective, a Qualifications statement, level of education, a sense of your experience and accomplishments, and, usually, your current or most recent positions. Page two normally contains the earlier positions and additional supporting material.
By the way, most career professionals and HR managers merely suggest that most resumes be kept to one or two pages.
Sometimes, a three-page resume is appropriate. This happens most frequently when the candidate’s work history contains several projects. The curriculum vitae or CV, historically the resume format of choice among academics and medical professionals, is often three pages or longer due to the plethora of presentations, publications, committees, and degrees it includes.
For the standard job seeker, two pages are usually sufficient to tell the story.
The critical concerns, then, become: What do we include? What do we exclude?
This can be a painful predicament. But as we will see, not an unmanageable one.
(If you’re interested, take a look at How to Create a Two-Page Resume with Three Pages on page 110.)
By the way, most of the resumes you’ll see in Resume Empower! were origi
nally two pages, shortened to provide sufficient variety and examples without
creating a tome the size of War and Peace.
How to Begin
Before your resume is complete, you will have made dozens of important decisions. This book is designed to help you make those decisions quickly and easily. Each section of a resume is explained in detail with complete instructions in the writing and presentation strategies. Examples and options are provided so you can determine what works best for you. Examples throughout the book explain and demonstrate particular points. Skim pages 3 to 91 quickly. Then return to study each section as you begin to write that portion. Highlight examples that are especially applicable to you.
How Interview Decisions Are Made: It all starts with rejection.
Have you ever wondered how employers decide who will get interviews from
the numerous responses they receive to posted job announcements? Through rejection!
Before seriously considering the merits of the received resumes, there is an initial culling process. Despite all the multitudinous reports describing how many seconds and nanoseconds reviewers devote to each resume, it is a fairly personal and idiosyncratic process.
Visual integrity is perhaps the most obvious manner. A resume with obvious typos, spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and a blatant lack of certain skills or experience, is pretty much assured a one-way trip to the round file. Some reviewers, however, are so obsessive in certain areas that they will reject candidates for violating some rules they’ve formed that no one else cares about and should make no difference.
The plain vanilla truth of the matter is that we don’t know how any given reviewer will respond to any given resume on any given day.
We do know that out of a batch of 80 resumes, perhaps only 20 will be placed in the “I’m interested” pile and read in greater detail. Half of these will be disqualified through a more objective system such as a review of actual qualifications. After further consideration, perhaps six will be selected for interviewing purposes.
marK twain, orSon welleS, anD You: You Can’t PleaSe eVerYone — So Don’t trY!
What do Huckleberry Finn, A Tale of Two Cities, War and Peace, Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind, and Jaws have in common? They are all classics of world literature and film.
Does that mean everyone enjoyed viewing or reading them? Hardly. Huckleberry Finn has sometimes been decried as racist; A Tale of Two Cities as boring, and War and Peace intolerably long. Citizen Kane was too cerebral; Gone With the Wind too pretentious; and Jaws too scary for younger viewers.
In other words, these popular and immortal icons of art did not please everybody.
Did the authors and filmmakers set out to appeal to everyone? Hardly. They set out to tell the best story they could in the best way that they could. Did they expect universal acclaim? Of course not!
So, if Huckleberry Finn, A Tale of Two Cities, War and Peace, Citizen Kane, Gone with the Wind, and Jaws were not designed or expected to satisfy everyone’s taste, why must your resume?
When you create your resume, you are creating your own work of art. You are the author, artist, auteur. Create it for yourself, not for every junior human resources flack who might review it. If it pleases you and makes you feel marketable, you have created your masterpiece. Cut yourself the same slack as you would Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Orson Welles: Don’t try to please everybody.